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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Poll Question: What's the Best Metal Show You've Ever Seen?



I'm lucky to say I've been to my fair share of concerts, the bulk of them being heavy metal shows. There's just something about live music that draws us as a culture. Sure, it's optimum to consume music at your leisure, be it in private or amongst friends in a relaxation setting. Still, being there when a band takes the stage...there's a pact between artist and audience. So long as the artist shows the proper respect for those gathered to pay allegiance and bear witness to the best said artist has to give, all's well. In fact, sometimes it's spectacular.

As many shows I've been to, I know there are people who've been to far more than I. For some, the live listener's perspective is their gospel, much less the road dogs who actually perform the gigs. That being said, it can sometimes be a chore trying to select the best of the best concert experiences in one's life.

I can rattle off a lot of high moments from my concert memory banks. There's probably nothing I'll ever see quite like the frantic, spastic, electrifying performance of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their Mother's Milk tour, before they stripped all of that agitated funk-punk down to what they are now. Not to diss the Chilis, but damn, the Mother's Milk jaunt...perhaps those who saw their early L.A. years can tell a better story of how much energy that band propelled upon their crowd back in the day.

Both times I've seen Prince are extremely memorable, particularly when he was ripping out a loud solo in the middle of a Zeppelin cover, then he planted his guitar on the stage, mimicked Hendrix's guitar torching genuflections, then Prince got his belly and slithered away, then back, striking six perfect notes on the fret from that position.

Tori Amos, Beastie Boys, Ben Harper, the Ramones, Sonic Youth, Beck, KRS-One, The Cure, Rush...all moments of wow for me. Metal-speaking, both times I saw Boris were cosmic experiences, ditto for the many times I caught Isis, the best of them with Pelican as openers a few years ago. Dylan Carlson and Earth, I was transfixed sitting in on their sound check, much less their mesmerizing gig. A very-young Trivium as openers for Iced Earth really showed me how badly that band wanted it. Celtic Frost on their Monotheist tour was an unholy religious experience; I pity anyone who missed it. Venom? I once feared that band, but live? Damnation, what fun, pun intended. Sharing fake blood right out of Lizzy Borden's palm on Halloween night a few years back is a personal highlight and what a monstrous performance that show was, again, pun intended. Speaking of monstrous, anytime Gwar puts on a show, you're gonna remember it.

I remember Government Issue around 1987, the first time I got into a slam pit and found myself on my ass within seconds. Somebody picked me up though I was metalhead at a punk show and it was simply awesome. Later in life, I retired from the mosh pit after some creep started headbutting people during a lethal set by Static-X and I came around with my fist up in defense mode. I realized then I was too old and too impatient for the bastardization that was moshing at the time. I can laugh now, but there was a time I lost my glasses in a mosh during Suicidal Tendencies after Pantera had just opened the show and Exodus headlined. Yeah, you read that right; Pantera opened. What a show.

Professionally, being front and center against the stage for Iron Maiden on their tour for A Matter of Life and Death is probably the most personally satisfying photo shoot I've ever done, even if the venue fucked all the photogs over by "losing" our tickets for the remainder of the show. My In Flames photos from Sounds of the Underground 2006 are amongst my favorite and the show was pretty amazing. It helped my candor that Anders Friden had given me a sweet interview on their bus and their TM was hospitable by offering me some much-needed water that day.

Chthonic is a live spectacle I won't forget, from behind the lens and from merely a fan's view. I remember both Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse literally shaking the place to pieces while my camera vibrated. Darkest Hour made waiting through 10 mediocre local bands worth the entire ride. Being there for the first Belladonna Anthrax reunion in Sayreville, New Jersey was quite special, particularly since they were filming Alive 2 that night and I'm somewhere in the crowd. That show was the only time in my life I'd been bumped and crashed into where every single person excused him or herself. Props to you, Jersey...

Better yet, being there at the Nokia in Times Square for Anthrax again on the same leg, right under Scott Ian, amidst pros I knew by name and had just kinda-sorta met in transition through the photo pit. Belladonna's solo gig in Baltimore a couple years prior to that remains a favorite because only 50 people showed, if that, and Joey played drums and sang, delivering a passionate show as if the joint had sold out. It was also fun interviewing him at the pool table earlier and just hanging out. Out of nowhere, I have to recall Motley Crue on the Dr. Feelgood tour, a pretty good show with a lousy and long guitar solo but made all the more astonishing by Tommy Lee's drum solo from the ceiling in the arena. Crikey, what a visual that brings up...

The memories are plentiful (particularly Monsters of Rock 1988 with Van Hagar, Scorpions, Metallica, Dokken and Kingdom Come), but if I have to narrow it down to cream of the crop metal shows I've been to, the 1990 Judas Priest/Megadeth/Testament show is a huge contender. You had Priest supporting Painkiller, Megadeth Rust in Peace and Testament Souls of Black. We missed some of Testament, but damn, what a show. I vividly recall Megadeth tearing the arena a new one, while I stood there with my mouth open during Priest's set, a ton of the old classics dusted off for the first time in many years at that show. It was a personal honor to tell Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton and KK Downing each in separate interviews what a privilege that was to see such a commanding performance.


Photo by Zach Petersen

That being said, there is just one show better than that and I occasionally run into other people who caught the same tour. When you read the lineup, it's just staggering, but get your head around this: Voivod, Soundgarden and Faith No More. Voivod headlined, while Soundgarden and Faith No More were the supporting acts. Both of the latter bands were on the cusp of breaking out and soon did after I saw this show, yet Voivod legitimately owned their headlining position. Picture if you will a miniature Pink Floyd set from the old years, bubble-like projections on a screen with hyperspeed thrash coming at you. Jesus wept...

Faith No More were incredible. Mike Patton climbed in the rafters of the venue and spread himself out on the beams and sang the old Nestle's jingle. The band was literally shaking the stage with their animation. That would've been enough for anybody. Then Soundgarden came on and blew everyone away. I had the funny distinction of having Chris Cornell's amp cord wrap around my throat while everybody was pushing him back onstage. Also, I had been jumping up and down in front of Cornell and got a high five and again lost my glasses. Thank God my friend Bob was there to shove people off the barrier so I could find the damned things. Again, more than enough for anybody to say they'd been to one hell of a show. Then the vintage era Voivod on their Nothingface leg, holy shit...

So kick back the memories, readers, and tell me what you think is the best metal show you've attended...

5 comments:

taotechuck said...

Not that anyone would know it from my weekly playlists, but I pretty much only listened to metal and classic rock the whole time I was growing up. I was already drifting from metal by the time the crappy third-rate hair bands like Warrant came along, and whatever love I still possessed was pretty much killed off when I moved to Hollywood in '89. (Ironically, I moved there with the intent of playing bass in a hair metal band, but those plans changed within weeks of my arrival.)

With that all said, the metal show that comes to mind was Queensryche headlining a small venue in Albuquerque during the Rage for Order tour in fall of '86. At that point, the band was still reasonably dark and mysterious, and Geoff Tate had not yet shed his black trench coat in favor of a Gold's Gym muscle shirt. Tate's stage presence was striking, and the thing I remember most about the show was the fact that he simply stood at the mic and sang. It was the first time I truly understood the power that a strong performer can possess, and it was also the first time I realized that metal's accoutrements (be it special effects, stage props, makeup, or whatever) were completely unnecessary.

It's funny now to realize the effect that show had on me, particularly since I dislike everything Queensryche has done in the past 20 years, but that was definitely the best metal show I ever saw.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

LOL, cool story, Chuck. Wish I'd seen them on this tour or OM or better, at all. Never seen QR play live, amazingly enough. Had dinner and an interview with Geoff Tate and he and Rockenfield were just totally cool guys in our chats, but I can imagine the early years. Even the DVD for OM I & II live shows how commanding Tate is as a performer.

godmachine12 said...

Not really metal but Porcupine Tree supporting 'Fear of a Blank Planet' was absolutely breathtaking. The sound was spot on. Everything was crystal clear, audible and balanced. The setlist couldn't have been better. The venue—Orange Peel in Asheville, NC—was just right. I was standing in the perfect spot. I was just tipsy enough to enjoy the music more. Honestly, it was the perfect night and by far the best show I've ever seen. I'll never forget it.

Anonymous said...

Slayer "Reign in Blood" tour 1986-87. Couldn't hear for a couple of days afterwards. They played as though possessed, seriously.

cjk_44 said...

lots of cool shows to pick from.

the Porcupine Tree/Opeth show comes immediately to mind - this was when PT was touring in support of In Absentia and opener Opeth was touring in support of Damnation playing just mellow songs.

i remember Metallica/Queensryche from 1989 being amazing with Metallica supporting And Justice for All and the 'ryche supporting Operation: Mindcrime.

seeing In Flames back in 2000 supporting Colony (maybe it was 1999?) with Moonspell as main support was amazing, too.